In much of Will Smith’s best work — whether we’re talking about his music or his acting — his wonderful sense of humor shines through. But in his upcoming memoir Will, the man once known best as the Fresh Prince of Bel Air gets darkly serious. While the memoir won’t be available for purchase until next week, an excerpt released yesterday includes the shocking reveal that Smith once allegedly considered murdering his own father Will Smith Sr.
The Will excerpt comes courtesy of People, and toward the end of it, Will Smith talks about one night when he was taking care of his father, who had recently been diagnosed with cancer. He was pushing his wheelchair-bound father from his bedroom to the bathroom. In-between the two rooms was a stairway, and Smith writes, “I paused at the top of the stairs. I could shove him down, and easily get away with it.” Smith continues that the “decades of pain, anger, and resentment coursed then receded,” and that he shook his head, and continued to wheel “Daddio” down the hall without further incident. Smith doesn’t say exactly when this happened, however USA Today reports that Will Sr. was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2015 and died in December 2016 — so it could have happened any time between.
Where did this rage come from? Will Smith points to a specific moment in his childhood as the catalyst not only for his allegedly near-murderous rage at the top of those stairs, but for who the superstar would become, as well as the version of himself he chooses to show the public. Smith says that at the age of 9, he witnessed his father punch his mother so hard that she fell to the ground and spat out blood. He goes on to say that through all “the awards and accolades, the spotlights and attention, the characters and the laughs,” his life has been marked by what he calls “a subtle string of apologies to my mother.” The actor says he failed his mother when he didn’t protect her and repeatedly calls himself a “coward.” During his childhood, Smith writes, he constantly promised himself that one day he would kill his father for what he’d done.
People’s Will excerpt describes a complicated relationship between Will Smith and his father. Smith isn’t shy about his father’s flaws. He says Will Sr. was a violent alcoholic who “terrorized his family” with “intense perfectionism.” He acknowledges, however, that it was that same perfectionism that helped Will Sr. support his family. He also describes a father who was there for “every game, play, and recital” and, when Smith was older, says he “listened to every record. He visited every studio.” In spite of Will Sr.’s alcoholism, Smith says his father was “sober at every premiere of every one of my movies.”
Will Smith seems to have thankfully found some peace in his relationship with his father. Speaking to USA Today in 2016, Smith said that making the 2016 fantasy drama Collateral Beauty helped him say goodbye to Will Sr. Reading books about the afterlife and religion to prepare for the role helped Smith face his father’s passing. The actor also told USA Today that caring for Will Sr. during his battle with caner gave him the opportunity to engage with his father in conversations he “never would have been mature enough or open enough to have” previously. It’s tempting to speculate that Smith and his father were able to talk about the violence of the past, and perhaps purge some bad blood.
Will Smith’s new memoir Will — co-authored with Mark Manson — will be available in hardcover, digital format, and as an audiobook next Tuesday, November 9. His next film is the biopic King Richard about Richard Williams, the father of tennis stars Serena and Venus Williams. King Richard will release simultaneously in theaters and on HBO Max on Friday, November 19.